The Kansas City Royals must lick their wounds and end a lengthy drought when they return home to begin a three-game series against the surging Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. Kansas City was swept of a three-game weekend set at Cleveland without registering a run and has not scored in a franchise-record 34 consecutive innings while falling nine games back in the American League Central.
The only good news for Royals is they are just 2 ½ games back in the race for the AL’s second wild card and will visit Minnesota, which occupies the spot, after taking on Tampa Bay. Ian Kennedy will try to turn around his fortunes at home, where he is 0-6 with a 5.97 ERA in 12 starts, on Monday as he opposes Austin Pruitt, who is coming off two rough starts in a row. The Rays are three games behind Minnesota after winning five of their last seven, getting two homers from Logan Morrison on Sunday in a 3-2 victory over St. Louis to take their second straight series. All-Star Corey Dickerson has hit safely in six consecutive games for Tampa Bay, going 11-for-22 with three homers in that stretch.
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), FSN Kansas City
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays RH Austin Pruitt (6-4, 5.76 ERA) vs. Royals RH Ian Kennedy (4-9, 5.09)
Pruitt has struggled in his last two starts, allowing 11 runs and 18 hits over 10 2/3 innings, after stringing together three solid outings. The 27-year-old Texan had given up six homers in his first 23 major-league appearances before surrendering four blasts in a no-decision against Toronto on Wednesday. Pruitt, who will be making his eighth career start, yielded three runs - one earned - and three hits in two frames of relief against the Royals on May 8.
Kennedy is winless in his last five starts after permitting three runs on seven hits and three walks across 4 2/3 innings of a no-decision against Colorado on Wednesday. The 32-year-old USC product was 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA during June and July but is 0-3 with a 7.99 mark in five starts this month. Brad Miller (3-for-5, one homer) and Morrison (6-for-16, two homers) have caused trouble for Kennedy, who is 1-4 with a 4.64 ERA lifetime versus Tampa Bay.
1. Tampa Bay CF Kevin Kiermaier recorded a pair of hits Sunday and is 13-for-40 with three homers and eight RBIs in nine games since returning from the disabled list.
2. Kansas City 1B Eric Hosmer has hit safely in seven straight contests despite his team’s slump, going 11-for-24 in that span.
3. The Rays have belted 18 homers in their last eight games after scoring all their runs in Sunday’s win on blasts.
PREDICTION: Rays 6, Royals 3